Divya Hegde
Divya HegdeDivya Hegde/LinkedIn

Waste To Wonderful: How Divya Hegde's Venture Baeru Empowers Women

Baeru's founder Divya Hegde talks about Baeru's progress so far, the innovations that have contributed to its success, and what the future holds

Baeru, with its groundbreaking waste management strategy, empowers women in coastal communities to drive positive change. This unique initiative not only transforms waste into wealth but also significantly impacts the lives of women and the environment. In an exclusive conversation with Outlook Traveller, Hegde delves into the strategies, innovations, and future plans of Baeru.


Baeru has a unique approach to waste management by empowering women in coastal communities. Can you elaborate on how this initiative has impacted these women's lives and the environment? 


Baeru's waste management strategy focuses on empowering women, particularly those from marginalised ethnic minorities in coastal communities. Through structured training and collaboration with local governments, Baeru equips these women with the skills needed for effective waste management. The initiative, recognised by UNESCO, not only champions gender and climate justice but also addresses the disproportionate impact of climate change on women.


You mentioned that Baeru follows the principles of the circular economy. How does your organisation transform waste into valuable resources at the source, and what are the benefits of this approach? 


Baeru actively follows the principles of the circular economy by partnering with Self-Help Groups (SHGs) and third-party vendors. Through innovative approaches like manufacturing eco-friendly products from various waste streams, including plastics and textiles, Baeru supports women in income generation. The organisation's first rural/coastal waste management facility operates on a unique payback model, directly benefiting women involved in waste collection.

Team Baeru interacting with fisherman at Malpe harbour
Team Baeru interacting with fisherman at Malpe harbour Baeru/Instagram

Baeru has achieved significant milestones in waste prevention and recovery in a relatively short time. What were the key strategies or innovations that contributed to this success? 


 Baeru attributes its success to several key strategies and innovations:

  1. Local and regional contextualisation of climate action efforts.

  2. Leveraging local arts and culture for behavior change programs.

  3. Implementing low-cost programs, low-tech solutions, and regional languages.

  4. Creating tangible value for all stakeholders in the waste management value chain.

  5. Closely linking climate action, livelihoods, and gender equity, recognising women as pivotal players.


How does Baeru provide this training, and what are the long-term goals for skill development among women in coastal areas? 


Baeru provides comprehensive offline training sessions ranging from a week to 12 days to over 3,500 women. The long-term goal is to make these women job-ready or business-ready in waste management, fostering a circular economy through upcycling and recycling activities. Skill development not only uplifts communities but also enables social benefits, enhancing women's ability to support their ambitions.


Could you share some specific examples of Baeru's impact on reducing plastic waste in coastal regions and its positive effects on marine ecosystems? 


At the systemic level, the organization has also partnered with 35 coastal local government bodies, 80 villages and three municipal bodies in the state in the past three years, impacting a population of around 4700000 people on the coast.

Our team believes that addressing climate change isn't solely about carbon emissions; it's about reimagining our everyday choices.

For instance, consider the choice of food and products we consume. Embracing locally-produced, fresh food isn't just about mitigating carbon footprints. It's a holistic approach that benefits our health, bolsters local economies, and happens to be climate-friendly too. Everyone's motivations stem from comprehensive benefits rather than being solely climate-driven.

Make waves with responsible travel!: One of our biggest mandates is to contribute to responsible travel habits through waste management services and workshops. This is also what we talk about in our workshops- we uncover the journey of trash – from your hands to fish bellies and back onto our plates in coastal towns.


Looking ahead, what are Baeru's plans and aspirations regarding waste management, environmental protection, and women's empowerment in coastal areas, and how can individuals and organisations support these endeavours? 


Looking ahead, Baeru aims to scale, replicate, and innovate its waste management model along the coastline of India. The organisation welcomes collaboration and support from individuals and organisations, encouraging volunteering, partnerships, and adaptation of their work in diverse environments.

In conclusion, Baeru's transformative approach not only revolutionises waste management but also catalyses women's empowerment and environmental protection, setting a precedent for sustainable practices in coastal areas.

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